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The European debate is confused, characterised by doubt, fear and disenchantment.

Now we are the rebels. We think that it is possible to remain clear-headed and not sink into pessimism. To predict the worst is not proof of wisdom. The defeatists are intelligent, proactive, those with a vision are dreamers. We reject this pretence.

Since ancient times Europe’s political story has been characterised by barbaric wars that have endlessly ravaged our continent and accumulated countless victims.

For 70 years Europeans have changed the course of their history. The events that surround us bear witness to the fact that peace is only a fragile reality. There is no need to be an expert to understand this. Ensuring peace remains the primary duty of our Union.

Europeans are and will increasingly be a minority within the global population. This is the unavoidable consequence of global evolution.

A rejection of fatalism is the choice of those who believe they can shape the future. It is not our destiny to be relegated to the periphery.

Confronted with globalisation and accelerating change, people want our model of society to be preserved. The people are right; as the model of withdrawal and isolation has always failed in the past and will have no greater success this time.

People have forgotten that it is the European Union that has the best-protected citizens. It guarantees the quality of water and food; it lowers the cost of phone calls, internet access, transport and energy; it certifies the quality of new medicines. People’s individual freedoms are guaranteed by our Charter of Fundamental Rights (let’s not forget that in 1957, only 12 of the current member states were democracies).

Europe is the only place in the world with a social model that offers everyone education, healthcare, a minimum wage, a pension, annual leave and equality between men and women.

Of course, while the model is incontestable it is also imperfect. Too many inequalities persist. Our will to ensure social justice must be unshakeable.

The President of the European Commission, Jean-Claude Juncker, has done well so far, holding back and challenging member states and the European Parliament by describing five options for the future. Once their reactions have been noted, the real debate on the EU will begin. It is indispensable for the EU not to leave itself paralysed by the United Kingdom’s decision to return to the open sea.

When determining our approach, we also need to nail two myths.

First, that few things are possible without treaty change – a (false) assertion behind which certain member states are hiding their reluctance to act. But all our proposals are possible under the Lisbon Treaty. The legal services of the Commission and the Council confirm this. The decisions depend only on the strength of our will.

Second, that a multi-speed Union is at odds with the very concept of the European project. More fakery. During its 60 years of existence, the obligations of the member states have never been identical. The original treaty not only allowed these variations, but structured them.

Differentiated transition periods organised these variations; lately it has been again recognised through ‘opt-outs’. We are inventing nothing; we are not questioning the fundamentals; we are organising the differences – permanent or provisional, depending on the choice of member states.


The priorities

1. The eurozone: it has been possible, but painful, to stop the financial crisis that was born in the United States from destroying our monetary union. But reality has bitten; we need to address the fragility of our structures. The European Central Bank has done its duty. At times the Council of Ministers has revealed its weakness and had to recourse to intergovernmental procedures.

So the model must be corrected.

The Eurogroup must become a European institution responsible for all the aspects and achievements of economic and monetary union. Within the European Parliament, the parliamentarians of the eurozone countries must be able to exercise their responsibilities with respect to the deliberations of this Council.

Economic and monetary union brings rights and responsibilities that do not affect those who are not part of it. Naturally, it remains open to those who wish to join and fulfil the conditions of entry. One of the great merits of the European project was to not force the hand of any member state, but no member state has the right to hold back the others from progressing.

2. Protection: the single market must be protected. Its attractiveness gives the EU the necessary weight in all negotiations to protect its fundamental interests.

On security, the terrorist threat can be countered only through a four-pillar strategy:

a) Exemplary and efficient collaboration at the levels of intelligence agencies, police and the judiciary;

b) External border controls – an unavoidable necessity to ensure that the free movement of people (in the Schengen area) is possible. The means must correspond to the increased challenge, and a merciless fight against human smuggling must be undertaken;

c) For those who come to Europe, absolute respect for our fundamental values is a necessity. But of course this implies that all the member states respect our Charter of Fundamental Rights, a common good of the Union, and that breaches are sanctioned in the same way as other violations of the treaties;

d) The EU must participate in resolving conflicts that lead to an exodus of refugees and radicalisation. It is useful to take part in coalitions that work to eradicate terrorism, but it is not enough: the EU must be part of the political dialogue about the future of our neighbouring countries.

The EU must continue to give aid to countries affected by these conflicts through its development aid policies so that they succeed in overcoming the economic and financial consequences of war at their borders.

3. Migration policies: it is right to establish a clear distinction between the victims of conflicts and those who want to settle in the EU. Not to make a difference between the victims of civil war and the perpetuators is scandalous. The main objective remains to replace illegal migration with legal and organised migration.

4. Defence: independence demands military capacity. Current circumstances require the materialisation of this aspiration, which could not become reality with the rejection of the European Defence Community. It is not necessary to draft a new treaty, but to insert this dimension into the current EU structures. The Lisbon Treaty allows this.

5. Growth: disenchantment with Europe coincided with a fall in growth. We need a boost in investment and reinforce the Juncker plan, and the time has come to distinguish in member state budgets the measures that contribute to growth, and prioritise them. Without this, formal budget orthodoxy risks becoming a liability.

6. Young people: mutual recognition of diplomas and the Erasmus scheme have made Europe a unique platform for the younger generations. We must continue in this way by achieving the same equivalences and the same exchanges for technical training and apprenticeships, strengthening the link between companies and educators.

7. The environment: The protection of our environment and sustainable development is the challenge of the century. Can we imagine that it is possible to address this issue successfully outside of the EU?

8. Innovation: the concerns of the British scientists obviously show the added value of European policies for research.


The conclusion is simple. Without Europe, our future is dark.

Our leaders must realise that today they are the authors of what will be our history tomorrow. We cannot limit ourselves to being the managers of the present.

We need to set out a perspective that will direct strategy and action. Priorities are only defined in relation to objectives. We only enjoy a fair wind if we know the port we want to reach.

Let us dare to take pride in what we have already accomplished, have enough clear-headedness to correct our mistakes, and reinforce our solidarity, without which there is no common future.

These are our beliefs.

Signatories of the appeal:

Jamila AANZI (UN Women’s Representative 2017; Dutch EYL*)
Alberto ALEMANNO (Jean Monnet Professor of EU Law and Founder of elab Europe; Italian EYL)
Joaquín ALMUNIA (European Commission vice-president 2010-14)
Edmond ALPHANDERY (French economy minister 1993-95)
László ANDOR (European commissioner 2011-14)
Francisco BALSEMAO (Portuguese prime minister 1981-83)
Ricardo BAPTISTA LEITE (Portuguese MP; EYL)
Enrique BARÓN CRESPO (European Parliament president 1989-92)
Franco BASSANINI (Italian public administration minister 1996-2001)
Remus Aurel BENTA (CEO at Daw Benta Romania; Romanian EYL)
Joachim BITTERLICH (Diplomatic advisor to Helmut Kohl 1987-1993)
Julie BOLLE (Director of Business Administration at Friends of Europe)
Laurens Jan BRINKHORST (Dutch economy minister 2003-06)
Elmar BROK (Chair of the European Parliament Committee on Foreign Affairs 1999-2007 & 2012-2017)
John BRUTON (Taoiseach 1994-97)
Philippe BUSQUIN (European commissioner 1999-2004)
Jean-Pierre BUYLE (President of Avocats.be)
Malcolm BYRNE (Head of Communications at the Irish Higher Education Authority; EYL)
Geert CAMI (Co-Founder & Managing Director of Friends of Europe)
Carme CHACON (Spanish defence minister 2008-11)
Willy CLAES (NATO secretary-general 1994-95)
Pat COX (European Parliament president 2002-04)
Gerhard CROMME (Chair of ThyssenKrupp Supervisory Board 2001-13)
Pierre DE BOISSIEU (EU Council secretary-general 2009-11)
Henri DE CASTRIES (Chair and CEO of AXA 2000-16)
Anna DIAMANTOPOULOU (European commissioner for employment and social affairs 1999-2004)
Lukasz DZIEKONSKI (Director of PKO Bank Polski; Polish EYL)
Jaap DE HOOP SCHEFFER (NATO secretary-general 2004-09)
Jacques DELORS (European Commission president 1985-95)
Xavier DUPORTET (CEO at Eligo Bioscience; French EYL)
Henrik ENDERLEIN (Director of the Jacques Delors Institute)
Mark EYSKENS (Belgian prime minister 1981; minister of foreign affairs 1989-92)
Tanja FAJON (Vice-Chair, Socialists & Democrats Group, European Parliament)
Aaron FARRUGIA (CEO of Malta Freeport Corporation; Maltese EYL)
Franco FRATTINI (Italian foreign minister 2008-11)
Markus FREIBURG (Founder & Managing Director of FASE; German EYL)
Nathalie FURRER (Director of Programmes & Operations at Friends of Europe)
Josep-Maria GASCÓN (Spanish EYL)
Jose Maria GIL-ROBLES (European Parliament president 1997-99)
Edvard GLÜCKSMAN (Senior Specialist at Wardell Armstrong LLP; Swedish EYL)
Elisabeth GUIGOU (Chair of the French National Assembly Foreign Affairs Committee)
Jakob HAESLER (Co-Founder of Project Alloy; German EYL)
Ben HAMMERSLEY (Applied futurist; British EYL)
Jens Ole Bach HANSEN (Danish EYL)
Wolfgang ISCHINGER (Chairman of the Munich Security Conference)
Shada ISLAM (Director of Europe & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe)
Klen JÄÄRATS (Estonian EYL)
Fiorella KOSTORIS (Economics Professor at Sapienza University of Rome)
Pascal LAMY (World Trade Organization director-general 2005-13)
Eneko LANDABURU (European Commission director-general 1986-2009)
Spiro LATSIS (Greek businessman)
Enrico LETTA (Italian prime minister 2013-14)
Yves LETERME (Belgian prime minister 2008)
Thomas LEYSEN (Chairman of Umicore & Corelio)
Pauline MASSART (Deputy Director Security & Geopolitics at Friends of Europe)
Louis MICHEL (MEP; European commissioner 2004-09)
Stefano MICOSSI (Honorary Professor at the College of Europe)
Philippe MAYSTADT (European Investment Bank president 2000-11)
João Wengorovius MENESES (General Manager at Discoveries; Portuguese EYL)
Giles MERRITT (Founder & Chairman of Friends of Europe, author of ‘Slippery Slope – Europe’s Troubled Future’)
Marcello MESSORI (Director of the LUISS School of European Political Economy)
Gérard MESTRALLET (Chairman of the Board of Directors, Engie & Suez)
Joelle MILQUET (Belgian deputy prime minister 2011-2014)
Mario MONTI (Italian prime minister 2013-14)
Katarzyna Anna NAWROT (Assistant Professor, Poznan University of Economics; Polish EYL)
Ferdinando NELLI FEROCI (European Commissioner 2014)
Annemie NEYTS (MEP, Belgian secretary of state 2001-2003)
Antonio PADOA SCHIOPPA (President of the European Library for Information and Culture Foundation)
Riccardo PERRISSICH (European Commission director-general 1990-94)
Andris PIEBALGS (European commissioner 2004-14)
Michael PRINTZOS (Program Director at The Hellenic Initiative; Greek EYL)
Romano PRODI (Italian prime minister 1996-1998 & 2006-08 )
Nina RAWAL (Head of Life Science at Industrifonden; Swedish EYL)
Claude ROLIN (MEP)
Onno RUDING (Dutch finance minister 1982-1989)
Ferdinando SALLEO (Italian ambassador to the US 1995-2003)
Jacques SANTER (European Commission president 1995-99)
Jamie SHEA (Deputy Assistant Secretary General at NATO)
Javier SOLANA (EU foreign policy chief 1999-2009)
Antoinette SPAAK (Honorary Minister of State of Belgium)
Kamilla SULTANOVA (Chair of Global dignity Girls & Boys Ry; Danish EYL)
Anna TERRÓN CUSÍ (Chair of UNU-GCM’s Advisory Board; Spanish Secretary of State 2010-2011)
Cezary TOMCZYK (Polish MP; EYL)
Gianni TONIOLO (Professor of Economics)
Dimitris TSINGOS (Founder & Head of Entrepreneurship at StartTech Ventures; Greek EYL)
Loukas TSOUKALIS (President of ELIAMEP)
Françoise TULKENS (Vice-President of the European Court of Human Rights)
Frank VANDENBROUCKE (Belgian deputy prime minister 1994-95)
Herman VAN ROMPUY (European Council president 2009-14)
Antonio VITORINO (European commissioner 1999-2004)
Max VON BISMARCK (Chief Business Officer at Deposit Solutions; German EYL)

* EYL = European Young Leader

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